Interviews

2016 Awards – Susan Brantley, Wollaston Medallist

SBrantley Photo_trees

Susan Brantley

In two week’s time, the Society will be holding our annual Awards Ceremony, at which we will present the 2016 medals and prizes. (See below for details of how to come along!)

This year, our highest honour, the Wollaston Medal – named for William Hyde Wollaston – is awarded to Susan Brantley of Penn State University.

Professor Brantley researches fluid-mineral reactions in low temperature environments – work which has had significant economic, environmental and biological implications.

‘At the moment I work on two topics’ she says. ‘The transformation of rocks into soil, and water quality issues related to hydraulic fracturing of shales.

‘Although the two topics seem totally different, both treat questions of how low-porosity rock opens to water.’

Of working as a geologist, she says, ‘I like the fact that I am always asking questions and always working with people who are asking questions. Life never gets boring.’

The Grant Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone, the largest hot spring in the United States (Wikipedia)

The Grant Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone, the largest hot spring in the United States (Wikipedia)

Brantley’s inspiration to study geology came from a mentor, David Crerar at Princeton University, and a visit to Yellowstone National Park, as a junior in college.

‘I became fascinated with the idea that water chemistry can change so dramatically from one place to another. Cerar taught me that we can understand those chemical changes. He also taught me that bacteria are important to hot spring chemistry too.’

Her career has so far produced over 200 scientific papers and numerous awards. But she is proudest of her work with students entering the field.

‘The most rewarding highlight of my career is the number of students that I have mentored, and the number of women that I have helped to enter geology. When I think about what I am most proud of, it is the impact I have had on people’s lives. This includes undergraduate students as well as more advanced students. I even try to get students in my daughter’s high school to study geology.’

Her advice to aspiring geologists is to ‘study chemistry, maths, physics and biology as well as geology. Try to build the broadest foundation you can so that you can tackle all the different aspects of your geological problems. But don’t forget to go in the field and look at the rocks.’

wollaston medal obverse

The Wollaston Medal

Former recipients of the Wollaston Medal include William Smith, Charles Darwin, Charles Lyell and Arthur Holmes. On becoming the Geological Society’s 2016 Wollaston medallist, Professor Brantley says ‘I am surprised and humbled. I pursue science because it is fun and interesting. Having my name on the list with the other medalists…it is almost scary! But it makes me want to keep trying to answer new questions.’

  • The Awards Ceremony is taking place on 8 June at Burlington House, and is free to attend, and open to all! As well as the presentations, the day will feature talks by the Wollaston, Lyell, Murchison and William Smith medallists, and a wine reception. There will also be a lunch preceding the ceremony, at £27.50 per person.

If you would like to join us for all or part of the day, please get in touch with Stephanie Jones to register:
E: Stephanie.jones@geolsoc.org.uk
T: 020 7434 9944

Pres Day 2016

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